Christmas list: swords, armour and a flute made from a swan bone

A map of the world from the 16th century commonplace book. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

A map of the world from the 16th century commonplace book. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Looking for a quirky gift? How about some medieval weapons or jewellery from the new Keep Adopting scheme at Norwich Castle?

Norwich Castle keep

Norwich Castle keep - Credit: Archant

You've heard of adopting lions and tigers at zoos, or donkeys at sanctuaries - but did you know Norwich Castle has put swords, statues, gold coins, ancient jewellery and even whole doorways up for adoption?

Whether you are looking for an unusual and imaginative Christmas present or a literally historic special occasion gift, there should be something for you as the Castle relaunches its Keep Adopting scheme with new treasures.

A "bollock dagger,"* Roman ear wax scoop and cauldron have already been adopted, but a "bastard sword,"** a knight's helmet found on Mousehold Heath and a 500-year-old wedding ring discovered in a Thetford nunnery are among the objects still waiting to be adopted.

Prices range from £25 to £750 with some objects allocated to just one adopter while others are shared between several.

Pages from the 16th century commonplace book, including a sketch of the whore of Babylon riding a se

Pages from the 16th century commonplace book, including a sketch of the whore of Babylon riding a seven-headed beast Picture: Norfolk Museums Service - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Every adoption includes an invitation to visit the object with adopters receiving a certificate, a digital image of their object, acknowledgment on the Castle's Adopt an Object website and an invitation to the Castle when the keep reopens in 2021, to view their object in a new medieval gallery, designed in partnership with the British Museum.

The money will help fund the £13.5m project to transform the castle keep. Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn is already 99pc funded, with donations including £9.2m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It will reinstate lost floors and rooms to reveal one of medieval Europe's most sophisticated castles. For the first time in 900 years visitors will be able to explore all five levels of the keep, from basement to battlements. Cash from the new adoption scheme will go towards conserving exhibits, creating dynamic new displays and developing events for schools and the public.

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The initial adoption scheme, launched in 2017, raised more then £12,000. Adopted objects included the highly decorated Norman archway which was once the ceremonial entrance into the Castle. Many adopters were local people, but a poleaxe was adopted by a couple from Sweden, who made a special trip to see their object and meet museum staff.

Dr Agata Gomolka, assistant curator for Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn, said: "We're really excited to see the return of Adopt an Object. With Christmas coming, now is the perfect time to be a part of this epic story! Our new objects join a fascinating range of medieval items, with something for everyone. Each object is unique and precious, making an adoption a lovely gift for any occasion, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really get involved in Norfolk history."

Richard Caister pilgrim badge. It would hav been bought by someone who had visited the shrine of th

Richard Caister pilgrim badge. It would hav been bought by someone who had visited the shrine of the vicar of St Stephen's church, Norwich, after his death in 1420. Picture: Norfolk Museums Service - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

To find out more about all the objects up for adoption visit

*Bollock daggers were used in battle as a supplementary weapon alongside swords, and also carried by everyone from peasants to knights and used as knives.

Stained-glass roundel Picture: Norfolk Museums Service

Stained-glass roundel Picture: Norfolk Museums Service - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

**Bastard swords were extra long and heavy, wielded with two hands by medieval knights.

The new items up for adoption include:

A statue of St Anthony the Great

St Anthony was a hermit, wise man and won epic fights with the devil. He is a patron saint of animals and a guardian against illness, particularly a condition known as St Anthony's Fire or ergotism, the seizures and gangrene caused by eating fungus-infected grain. The rare and beautiful 500-year-old statue includes a pig, a cross and a bell - perfect for an adopter who works in healthcare or with animals.

A silver seal matrix

This 14th century silver seal is inscribed, in Latin, "I'm the flower of the true love." The seal, decorated with the figure of a woman in an elegant dress, would have been used by a wealthy woman to seal letters. An ideal gift adoption for writers and lovers.

A parrot-beak jug

This piece of Norfolk medieval history had a lip shaped like a parrot's beak and is painted with another curious bird. Made in France in the 13th or 14th century, probably as a wine jug, it was discovered in Welborne, near Mattishall. A excellent adopted object for ornithologists, wine-drinkers, collectors of vintage treasures and residents of Welborne, or France.

A gold noble

This gold coin made in the reign of Henry VI was one of the most valuable forms of currency. Think a £1,000 coin. It is mentioned in Shakespeare, "Tis true, I gave a noble to the priest; The morn that I was wedded to her mother'." Whether you are celebrating a wedding or a Golden Wedding it could be the adopted object for you.

A bobbin

A mystery object from the early 12th century was found under a floor in Norwich Castle. One end is carved into the shape of a man's head, the other end is an animal. Experts are not entirely sure what it was used for but think it was probably a bobbin for needlework thread. An ideal adoption for anyone into crafts - or mysteries.

A Norwich pilgrim badge

Richard Caister was a priest and poet whose reputation inspired thousands of medieval pilgrims to visit his tomb in St Stephen's Church, Norwich. He was a contemporary of Julian of Norwich and defended King's Lynn mystic Margery Kempe when she was accused of heresy. After he died, almost exactly 600 years ago, his tomb became a pilgrimage site. This Richard Caister badge, bought by someone who made the journey to Norwich, was found at the Globe Theatre in London. A good gift for anyone going on a journey.

A stained-glass roundel

Make every day Christmas by adopting a stained glass picture made in Norwich in the early 16th century. It is one of a series of roundels, perhaps originally one for each month of the year, with this being December and showing a feast fit for a king.


Only the name of this book is commonplace - the hand-written treasure is an astonishing insight into the world of a Norfolk family more than 450 years ago

The Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News are delighted to be joining the Keep Adopting scheme by adopting a remarkable book created by a Norfolk father and son in the 16th century. The commonplace book belonged to Henry Appleyard of Dunston, near Norwich, but might have been begun by his father, John. The pages are filled with tiny, exquisite handwriting, plus drawings, diagrams, lists of mayors of Norwich and kings and queens of England and a map of the world. There is a picture of how Henry believed the solar system worked, with the sun and planets rotating around the central earth, and alongside sketches of real and legendary animals, and scholarly debate on the history of the world, an intriguing image of a woman riding a seven-headed beast.

The beautifully preserved book, which will go on public display when the castle keep reopens in 2021, is also our Norfolk Museums Service Object of the Month. Agata Gomolka, assistant curator on the keep project, tells us more about it:

"Commonplace books were compilations of notes, scientific and biblical texts, fragments of tracts and transcribed legal documents that acted as aids to memory and as an important means for an individual and family to preserve information. This individual focus makes every commonplace book unique. The book in our collection thus offers a fascinating glimpse into the intellectual, moral, and spiritual legacy of one Norfolk family in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

"It has more than 200 pages, still retains its original elegant leather binding and consists of texts written in several different handwriting styles accompanied by coloured drawings, diagrams, maps, and colour-coded captions.

The book was begun in about 1560 and continued over the ensuing decades. One writer whose contribution is certain was Henry Appleyard, son and heir of John Appleyard, and owner of the manor at Dunston, south of Norwich.

"In 1592 Henry copied into the book a selection of old documents preserved in the family archive, partly in an attempt to stake family claims to the lands, partly, too, to preserve and record for posterity the memory of his father as a landowner. But the interest of Henry and his predecessors went far beyond their property and inheritance. Also included in the book is the list of mayors and sheriffs of Norwich between the year 1403 and 1606. Heading this list of mayors is their ancestor, William Appleyard, mayor between 1403 and 1406. Another entry of local importance is a list of gentlemen of Norfolk whose ancestors came to England during the Norman Conquest in 1066. The medieval past of their county community clearly mattered to the Appleyard family.

The focus on history extends beyond the boundaries of Norfolk to the history of the world from biblical times. The line between historical events and biblical and legendary episodes is a thin one. And so, the deeds of Roman emperors and popes and the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 are narrated alongside references to the lives of the prophets. Elsewhere, the author offers a detailed glossary of concepts such as the invention of carpentry and people such as Plato and Julius Caesar. Events and characters are frequently accompanied by colourful drawings of mythical beasts. The book includes several calendars, reflections on the knowledge of God, with some sections unfinished and blank spaces and whole blank pages still present.

Henry and his predecessor write about the planets and the cosmos, illustrating their texts with splendid drawings such as a diagram of the solar system, accompanied by the signs of the zodiac and the four winds. The entries on astronomy, philosophy and even medicine continue across several pages. Elsewhere, a colourful fold-out map of the world is complemented with biblical quotations. The text is bookended with yet more evidence of the authors' intellectual curiosity—on the inside of the binding and several accompanying pages nearby, we find Latin and Greek maxims and proverbs translated into English.

While focus of the commonplace book of Henry Appleyard shifts between the local and the global, the truly broad scope of themes ranges from biblical and theological, to social and legal, to scientific."